Space aficionados across the United States were certain the National Air and Space Museum would get a shuttle, given the institution's close relationship with NASA. Smithsonian employees weren’t so sure.
“The press had seemed confident, but we weren’t certain,” says an exuberant Valerie Neal, a space-history curator at the museum. She learned Discovery was headed to the Smithsonian when she heard cheers from colleagues and museum visitors who were watching NASA's announcement.
The Smithsonian is currently home to Enterprise, an experimental shuttle that never flew in space but did complete glide tests. Discovery will sit in the same spot Enterprise now occupies. The 30-year history of Discovery, Dr. Neal says, provides an opportunity for beefing up the exhibit.
“An arrival like this happens very rarely in the life of a museum or in the life of a community," she says.